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The Appointment of Arbitrators in India: What You Need to Know

Arbitration has become a cornerstone in resolving commercial disputes in India, offering an efficient and effective alternative to the traditional judicial process. The appointment of arbitrators is a critical aspect of the arbitration process, ensuring that disputes are resolved impartially and competently. This article delves into the legal framework governing the appointment of arbitrators in India, including statutory provisions, relevant case laws, and the practical aspects involved.


Legal Framework Governing the Appointment of Arbitrators

The primary legislation governing arbitration in India is the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), which is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. The Act provides a comprehensive framework for the appointment of arbitrators under various circumstances.

Section 11: Appointment of Arbitrators

Section 11 of the Act outlines the procedure for the appointment of arbitrators. Key provisions include:


Section 11(2): Parties are free to agree on a procedure for appointing the arbitrator or arbitrators.

Section 11(3): In the absence of an agreement, each party shall appoint one arbitrator, and the two appointed arbitrators shall appoint the third arbitrator, who will act as the presiding arbitrator.

Section 11(4): If a party fails to appoint an arbitrator within thirty days of receipt of a request, or if the two appointed arbitrators fail to agree on the third arbitrator within thirty days, the appointment shall be made upon request to the Supreme Court or the High Court, as the case may be.


Relevant Case Laws

Several landmark judgments have shaped the jurisprudence regarding the appointment of arbitrators in India. Some of the most significant cases include:

Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd. v. Rani Construction Pvt. Ltd. (2002): The Supreme Court held that the power of the Chief Justice under Section 11 of the Act is administrative, not judicial. This decision was later overruled by the Constitutional Bench in SBP & Co. v. Patel Engineering Ltd.

SBP & Co. v. Patel Engineering Ltd. (2005): The Supreme Court held that the power exercised by the Chief Justice under Section 11 is a judicial function. This landmark judgment established that the Chief Justice while appointing an arbitrator, must determine whether there is an arbitration agreement and whether the conditions for the appointment of an arbitrator are met.

TRF Ltd. v. Energo Engineering Projects Ltd. (2017): The Supreme Court ruled that an arbitrator who is ineligible by law to be appointed cannot nominate another arbitrator. This decision reinforced the importance of impartiality and independence in the appointment process.

Perkins Eastman Architects DPC v. HSCC (India) Ltd. (2019): The Supreme Court held that if one party has a unilateral right to appoint the sole arbitrator, such an appointment would be invalid due to potential bias, ensuring a fair and balanced approach in the appointment process.


Statutory Provisions and Applicable Laws

Apart from the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, of 1996, some other statutory provisions and rules influence the appointment of arbitrators in India:

Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015: This amendment brought significant changes, including the introduction of timelines for the appointment of arbitrators and the establishment of the Arbitration Council of India to promote institutional arbitration.

Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019: Further amendments included provisions for the qualifications, experience, and norms for arbitrators, as well as the introduction of the Eighth Schedule, which lists the eligibility criteria for arbitrators.

Institutional Rules: Various arbitration institutions in India, such as the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA), the Delhi International Arbitration Centre (DIAC), and the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA), have their own rules regarding the appointment of arbitrators. These rules often supplement the provisions of the Act and provide detailed procedures for the appointment process.


Practical Aspects of Appointing Arbitrators

The appointment of arbitrators involves several practical considerations to ensure that the arbitration process is fair, efficient, and impartial. These considerations include:

Choosing the Right Arbitrator: Parties should consider the arbitrator's expertise, experience, availability, and impartiality. An arbitrator with specific knowledge relevant to the dispute can significantly enhance the efficiency and quality of the arbitration process.

Institutional vs. Ad-hoc Arbitration: Parties may choose between institutional arbitration, where an arbitration institution administers the process, and ad-hoc arbitration, where parties and arbitrators manage the process themselves. Institutional arbitration often provides a more structured and reliable framework for appointing arbitrators.

Arbitration Agreements: Well-drafted arbitration agreements can preempt many issues related to the appointment of arbitrators. Such agreements should specify the number of arbitrators, the method of their appointment, and any qualifications required.

Challenges to Arbitrator Appointments: Parties can challenge the appointment of an arbitrator if there are justifiable doubts regarding the arbitrator's independence or impartiality. The Act provides mechanisms for challenging arbitrator appointments to ensure fairness in the arbitration process.


Challenges and Recent Developments

Despite the robust legal framework, the appointment of arbitrators in India faces several challenges. These include delays in the appointment process, lack of qualified arbitrators, and issues related to arbitrator independence and impartiality.

Delays in Appointment: Delays in the appointment process can significantly impact the efficiency of arbitration. The 2015 and 2019 amendments aimed to address this issue by introducing timelines and promoting institutional arbitration.

Lack of Qualified Arbitrators: There is a need for more trained and qualified arbitrators in India. The Arbitration Council of India, established under the 2019 amendment, aims to address this by setting standards and promoting arbitration education and training.

Ensuring Independence and Impartiality: Ensuring that arbitrators are independent and impartial is crucial for the integrity of the arbitration process. Recent judgments, such as the Perkins Eastman case, have reinforced the importance of these principles.



The appointment of arbitrators in India is governed by a comprehensive legal framework that ensures the process is fair, efficient, and impartial. Key statutory provisions, landmark case laws, and practical considerations all play a role in shaping the appointment process. Despite challenges, recent developments and reforms aim to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of arbitration in India. As arbitration continues to grow as a preferred method of dispute resolution, understanding the nuances of appointing arbitrators becomes increasingly important for legal practitioners and parties involved in arbitration.

  • Section 11 of the Act outlines the procedure for the appointment of arbitrators, emphasizing party autonomy.
  • Landmark judgments like SBP & Co. v. Patel Engineering Ltd. and Perkins Eastman Architects DPC v. HSCC have shaped the appointment process.
  • Challenges such as delays and lack of qualified arbitrators persist, but recent reforms aim to enhance arbitration efficiency in India.

BY : Fanuel Rudi

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